Eating carbohydrates during and after high-intensity or prolonged exercise of 90 minutes or more may help minimise exercise-induced immune disturbances and can aid the body's recovery, especially in athletes, research has showed.
Intense exercise creates immune disturbances and thus people often tend to have fewer natural killer white blood cells after a workout session which also increases the risk of upper respiratory illnesses, the researchers said.
"Exercise is a form of stress and more vigorous exercise creates more physiological stress which causes physiological and biochemical changes in the body. To tackle the potential threats these changes highlight, the immune cells may simply move out of the blood stream to the lungs and takes longer for the immune system to return to normal," Jonathan Peake from Queensland University of Technology in Australia.
However, consuming between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour during intense workouts can bolster health and promote faster recovery from exercise because they stabilise blood sugar levels lowering your body's stress response.
"The consumption of carbohydrates before and during strenuous exercise not only improves endurance performance, but it can also minimise exercise-related immune disturbances," added Oliver Neubauer from Queensland University of Technology, in the paper published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
"Examples of carbohydrates that could be consumed during exercise include carbohydrate-containing fluids, gels and bars consisting of different carbohydrates such as glucose and fructose. Alternatively, bananas may also do the job," Neubauer said.
In addition, consuming carbohydrates in the first few hours immediately after strenuous exercise also helps to restore immune function.
"This is especially important in situations where the recovery duration between two consecutive exercise sessions is short, which is often the case for athletes," Peake noted.